Later this month several activists from Warwick for Free Education will be helping to organise a trip to take vital supplies to the camps housing migrants and refugees in Calais. We have already raised £950 and have several cars available to be filled with supplies. If you want to be involved contact WFFE on our Facebook page or twitter, you can also donate money here.
We believe in solidarity not charity. Migrants are not a charity case. We do not believe in depoliticised humanitarian aid that seeks to mitigate the plight of those thought to be inherently less fortunate. There is rarely such a thing as being a victim of circumstances, usually the people in most dire need are victims of clearly identifiable systems of oppression. This is the case in Calais.
Though the situation is an ongoing humanitarian disaster it is also a deeply political disaster. It must be viewed in the context of a ‘Fortress Europe’ border regime responsible for tens of thousands of deaths in the Mediterranean in the recent decades, mass incarceration of immigrants and asylum seekers in detention centres from Greece to Italy to Yarl’s Wood in Bedfordshire, and refugee camps like Calais. A sustained campaign of demonstrations and direct actions by the Movement For Justice By Any Means Necessary has highlighted the abuse, sexual violence, and prison-like conditions women at Yarl’s Wood suffer; this is typical of detention centres across Europe.
The camp in Calais has been there for over 10 years, and many migrants have died there or from attempting to cross over to Britain. This is a long-term, avoidable, tragedy; and yet only now European tourists and truck drivers are inconvenienced do people seem to notice or care. Even then, for the most part what we have seen is disgusting and dehumanising language from the political establishment of all parties and the Tory government in particular and calls in mainstream print media for troops to be deployed. The schedules of delayed British holidaymakers matter, migrants’ lives certainly do not – that is the message.
We must name the immigration system as a racist system, a constant travesty and structural violence against people who are mostly here because of stuff Europe has done and benefited from – climate refugees fleeing the result of industrial capitalism, people who can’t make a life for themselves in countries rendered unliveable for many people by centuries of colonial and neo-colonial plunder, enslavement, and divide-and-rule, and refugees of Europe’s wars.
When anti-immigrant demagogues want to seem more humane they will talk about how traffickers are the problem and they only want to save migrants from traffickers and from the dangers of trying to hitch a ride into Britain. Their faux-empathy slips when presented with the compelling truth – disgusting poverty profiteers though traffickers may be*, and perilous though it may be to run across road and rail lines, – the traffickers and the road accidents only exist because of the border regime. Britain could choose to offer safe passage to the few thousand refugees. The traffickers would be out of business and there need not be one more death.
Providing supplies is an act of political solidarity. It registers in a concrete way our opposition to police harassment and destruction of people’s property in the Calais camp. It facilitates the ability of the camp’s population to continue living and resisting the racist immigration system. It is, as the Black Panther Party theorised, a form of survival-pending-revolution – material support to allow people to live while they also resist the systems that try to crush them.
However, providing supplies will not be the end of our activism. We will continue, individually as activists and collectively as NCAFC or WFFE members, to fight the causes of tragedies like Calais. We will campaign against right wing reactionaries (from ‘‘Controls on Immigration’ mug’-style Labourism rightwards) who mobilise immigration as a political tool; we will fight for alternative solutions to crises in unemployment, housing, and living standards that attack the real enemies rather than scapegoating immigrants. We will support resistance to the system of immigration detention centres by detainees, and to the UK Border Agency by working class communities. NCAFC will hold a demo in Dover on 17th October under the slogan ‘Open Dover, Open Europe’, and we urge people to go and press for a solution to the oppression of migrants beyond tents and tinned food donations.
No Borders! Close all detention centres! Migrant lives matter.